On Buffy the Vampire Slayer

For the Love of Riley

By Michelle Sagara West

Riley. Just two syllables, but concatenate them in that particular order, and you’ll cause a rash among a surprisingly large number of the more civil of Buffy aficionados. Among the less civil, you’ll be the proud recipient of linguistic eruptions of a particular and unenviable nature, although if you’re into safety, you can cover your momentary lack of taste by tacking on a different last name, and then turning the subject of conversation to either Angel or Spike.

And why shouldn’t people complain? Let me get to that in a moment.

First, let’s look at the introduction of Riley Finn.

One, he appeared in the meandering and directionless fourth season. While many episodes of note–well, one at least (“Hush,” 4-10)–made their debut in season four, possibly the worst of the Buffy episodes to date also called it home (“Beer Bad,” 4-9). His initial introduction–as the target for a large number of falling books–went without a hitch, as did saving Willow’s life, and he sealed the “all good” vignettes with a direct punch to the loathsome mouth of Parker, a boy who slept with Buffy and dumped her after his one-sided one-night stand.

How could it have gone wrong from there?

Well, actually, it goes wrong from way, way back.

The Scoobies were misfits. They managed to be cute without projecting cute (Alyson Hannigan. Sarah Michelle Gellar. Need I say more?); Alyson Hannigan was the nerd’s nerd, Nicholas Brendan’s Xander was the witty pop-culture guru who couldn’t get a date with something that wasn’t trying to eat  …

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